It’s my inaugural column and you deserve an introduction. Specifically, you deserve to know: What makes Linda Stansberry qualified to write an advice column? The answer to that is: Nothing. This job has no minimum qualifications. But if you believe in the axiom that good judgement is the result of experience, and experience the result of poor judgement, you’ve come to the right place. If you want the advice of someone who has, just as an example, waited tables in Guatemala while battling gastroenteritis on the same day she had no clean clothes left except for a one-piece bathing suit and a sundress, I’m your girl. Always keep up with your laundry and beware of undercooked pork. Now, on with the questions.
I do not know how to respond when someone continually says, “No problem.” ‘May I have fries with that?’ “No problem.” ‘You forgot my fries.’ “No problem.”
Signed, It’s a Problem
Dear It’s a Problem,
There’s one way to respond that I saw recently, but I can’t say I recommend it. I was in line for dinner at a community fundraiser and when the woman in front of me received her plate of food, the volunteer serving her said, “Enjoy.” The woman replied that she’d never particularly enjoyed being told to “Enjoy” and that the volunteer should say “Bon appetit” instead. I would describe the expression on the volunteer’s face as…bemused. So my question for you is, do you want to be that person, the kind of person whose behavior inspires advice columnists to use them as examples of curmudgeonly snobbishness? Of course you don’t. When someone says, “No problem,” just say, “Thank you” and lead by example.
How do I become a more patient person who can pause and think before reacting? How can I not get so easily annoyed by things? I have my own marketing business and like the work but find it stressful and become annoyed with clients a lot.Signed, Toe-Tapping Teeth Gritter
Sorry to say it, but unless you’re independently wealthy and only hustle for fun, owning your own business can bring out the worst in most entrepreneurs. And freelancing in creative fields such as marketing or writing is usually such a feast-or-famine dynamic it can bring out the worst of the worst. Might I recommend the work of Dr. Bob Maurer, who dives into the neurochemical causes of stress? Maurer’s explanation of how our brains can’t distinguish between immediate physical threats and intangible emotional threats might help you understand why you want to strangle clients who ask you to rewrite the same piece of copy three goddamn times without giving you any feedback except they want it to sound “peppier.” Their inability to define pep, after all, is standing in between you and the money that might let you buy name brand cheese this month. That is stressful! Long-term, I recommend a consistent meditation practice. Short-term, practice pausing and breathing deeply for a few seconds before responding to questions or critiques that trigger your annoyance. Remember that only someone dumb will think you’re dumb for not replying to a question automatically. And if you can restructure your relationship with your clients so they have better boundaries and respect for your time — i.e., no phone calls after 6 p.m., a maximum of four pitches or we’re both moving on, pay me for the work I’ve done even if it’s not peppy enough — everyone will benefit.
OK, that’s it for this week. Send your questions to email@example.com. Next week: The best dating advice my mom ever gave me.